Eating and being eaten are processes that are actually only known from the animal kingdom. In fact, stars are capable of devouring entire planets. What may sound crazy to many at first is a well-known phenomenon in the astronomy community. Observations from just before and also just after such an event are well documented. But now, for the first time, an observation has been made that directly depicts the devouring.
In this process, a star inflates to a million times its original size as soon as it runs out of energy to move and swallows up all the matter in its vicinity - including planets - as the broadcaster CNN explains the connection.
Astronomers saw the process as a glowing white flash, followed by a slightly cooler but longer-lasting glow, which they then interpreted as a star devouring a planet. Speaking to CNN, a team of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University and the California Institute of Technology consider the discovery of the dying star devouring a planet to be a world first and describe the fate of the planet as one that will eventually - sometime in the distant future - the earth also awaits. But not in the "next five billion years".
"The fact that the planets of the solar system will be engulfed by the sun in the future was something I first read about in high school, so it was surreal to realize that we might have found the first example of this, a similar one event in real-time,” study lead author Kishalay De, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told CNN.
The sinking of the planet took place about 12,000 light-years away in the constellation Eagle (Aquila) and hit a planet the size of Jupiter, the researchers explained their results, which were published in the journal "Nature". "However, we are at the beginning of a revolution [...] as several new instruments will become available in the next decade, which we hope will allow us to repeatedly find similar events," De summarizes the first research results of the observation to CNN together.
Sources: Nature (Paid Content), CNN